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Interdisciplinary Barthes$
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Diana Knight

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266670

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266670.001.0001

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Picturing Barthes: The Photographic Construction of Authorship

Picturing Barthes: The Photographic Construction of Authorship

(p.97) 7 Picturing Barthes: The Photographic Construction of Authorship
Interdisciplinary Barthes

Kathrin Yacavone

British Academy

Despite his infamous thesis of the ‘death of the author’ in the 1960s, in the last decade of his life, Roland Barthes developed a conception of authorship that brings together textual and biographical realities, coining the terms biographème and biographologue to describe the relation between the author’s life and work. This was accompanied by a renewed and related interest in photography, as evidenced by his illustrated Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes (1975) and La Chambre claire (1980). Taking this conjunction of authorship and photography as its starting point, this chapter juxtaposes Barthes’s understandings of the author with the evolving photographic iconography of his own authorial persona. It shows that theoretical reflection on authorship was already closely linked with photography and the visual representation of the writer figure in the early Michelet par lui-même (1954), before exploring how this relationship becomes more pronounced and self-reflexive in the 1970s. Analysis of photographic portraits of Barthes, focused on their iconography and style, reveals that the role photography has played in Barthes’s posthumous reception has followed its own dynamics, related to, yet transcending, his highly intentional photographic self-construction.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, authorship, ‘le biographème’, ‘death of the author’, photography, Michelet par-lui-même, Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, portraits of Barthes, iconography, posthumous reception

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